Non-Stress Test

Mother with fetal monitor non-stress test
Photo © Moment/Getty Images

Why the test is done:
This test can be done in the later stages of pregnancy. It is more frequently used in cases where the mother is going past her assigned due date to ensure fetal well-being. In some cases it is done as a precaution after problems in a previous pregnancy or because of high-risk factors such as diabetes, intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR), etc.

How the test is done:
This test is usually done in your practitioner's office.

You will sit in a chair or lie on a table with fetal monitoring equipment hooked to your belly. (Though some studies shows that being upright or even walking may speed the results.) The monitor will record your baby's heart rate in conjunction with any uterine activity. More frequently than not you are asked to press a button when the baby moves so that the heart rate can be seen in relationship to that movement.

When the test is done:
This test is most frequently done between weeks 38 and 42, however, it can be used as early as the beginning of the third trimester.

How the results are given:
Reactive and non-reactive are usually the way the results are given . Sometimes little ones don't cooperate during the testing and move. So the mother is offered a drink of something usually containing sugar or bubbles to perk the baby up. If this doesn't cause the baby to move sometimes a loud sound will be used to startle the baby into moving.

Remember babies can and do sleep in utero.

Risks involved:

  • misinterpretation of the data
  • exposure to ultrasound


Stress testing or biophysical profile.

Where do you go from here?
If the baby is still not as responsive as they would like you may either go to a biophysical profile, a stress test or even induction.

How and why this test is done can also vary from practitioner to practitioner. If you have questions about the test, when it's done, how often it's done, or who does it, be sure to speak up. The goal of the test is to ultimately reassure you and your practitioners that everything is going well. If you are not feeling that reassurance, be sure to speak up and ask questions.


Akbarzade, M., Rafiee, B., Asadi, N., & Zare, N. (2015). The Effect of Maternal Relaxation Training on Reactivity of Non-Stress Test, Basal Fetal Heart Rate, and Number of Fetal Heart Accelerations: A Randomized Controlled Trial.International Journal of Community Based Nursing and Midwifery3(1), 51–59.

Cito, G., Luisi, S., Mezzesimi, A., Cavicchioli, C., Calonaci, G., & Petraglia, F. (2005). Maternal position during non-stress test and fetal heart rate patterns. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand, 84(4), 335-338. doi: 10.1111/j.0001-6349.2005.00644.x

Raouf S, Sheikhan F, Hassanpour S, Bani S, Torabi R, Shamsalizadeh N.

 Glob J Health Sci. 2014 Oct 28;7(2):177-82. doi: 10.5539/gjhs.v7n2p177.

Salim, R., Garmi, G., Nachum, Z., & Shalev, E. (2010). The impact of non-significant variable decelerations appearing in the latent phase on delivery mode: a prospective cohort study. Reprod Biol Endocrinol, 8, 81. doi: 10.1186/1477-7827-8-81

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